Viral social media posts claiming the new Ram Janmabhoomi Temple in Ayodhya is being built 3 km away from the location of the Babri Masjid, are false. Due to the controversy surrounding the destruction of the mosque to build the temple, the claim caused an uproar among online users.
BOOM spoke to reporters who had recently visited the temple complex being constructed, who confirmed to us that the temple is being built directly above the ruins.
We also spoke to a local resident Nand Kumar, who heads the Ayodhya Vyapar Mandal, who also rubbished the claim of the temple being built away from the mosque, and confirmed to us that the position of the idol, which was earlier placed in the ruins of the Babri Masjid, has been preserved in the new temple.
Furthermore, many of the posts were found sharing screenshots of satellite views from Google Maps of other religious structures, like the Birla Dharamshala, and Shri Sita Ram Mandir, and falsely claiming that they show the ruins of the Babri Masjid.
Finally, a historical view of the satellite imagery of the location where the new Ram Janmabhoomi Temple is being constructed closely matches the site of the Babri Masjid, as seen in videos of its demolition. This further confirms that the temple has been constructed on the exact spot where the Babri Masjid stood.
The Babri Masjid, built in the 16th Century by Mughal general Mir Baqi, has been one of the biggest disputes among India's Hindu and Muslim communities, with the former claiming that the mosque was built over the birthplace of Hindu deity Rama. The mosque was then razed to the ground on December 6, 1992 by far-right Hindu nationalist group Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other associated groups, triggering widespread communal violence around the country. Following years of religious dispute, the Supreme Court on November 9, 2019, ordered the land containing the ruins of the mosque to be handed over for the construction of the Ram Janmabhoomi Temple, while allotting a separate 5-acre plot for the construction of a mosque.
A consecration ceremony for the temple, known as 'Prana Pratishtha', is to be held on January 22, 2024, allowing for the public to access the temple. The claims are viral in this backdrop.
One user on X (formerly Twitter) posted the screenshot from Google Maps and wrote, "Construction of Ram temple is 3 kms away from demolished Babari Masjid site, why ?????????????????"
Yet another user shared a similar screenshot and wrote, "Check out this Google map showing the two distinct sites of where the Babri Masjid once stood and where the Ram Temple has been constructed. Ruins of babri Mosque still there. Ram Mandir being built 3 KM away from demolished Mosque."
Another user on Facebook shared a different screenshot, showing similar points on the map, and claiming that the Babri Masjid ruins are 3 km away from the temple being constructed. The caption with this post read, "Ram Temple @ Ayodhya is being constructed 3 kms away from (illegally demolished) BABRI MASJID site... Have a Look below!"
Going through the myriad posts on social media making this claim, BOOM found that many of them were made on the basis of the supposed position of the ruins of the Babri Masjid according to the search results on Google Maps.
Taking cue from this, we conducted a similar search, but noticed that Google Maps did not throw up any accurate results of the ruins of the mosque.
We also observed some other users using Hindi keywords "बाबरी मस्जिद परिसर" (which translates to Babri Masjid Complex in English) to show a purported location of the ruins of the mosque. We ran these keywords through Google Maps, which led us to a residential location, which has been shared by many users as the supposed location of the ruins.
Zooming into this location, we found a few structures which were being claimed to be the ruins of the Babri Masjid. However, upon zooming in, Google Maps threw up different names for these structures - one was labelled as Birla Dharamshala, while the other structure right next to it was labelled as Shri Sita Ram Mandir.
BOOM compared this satellite view with those going viral as Babri Masjid ruins, and found it to be of the same place.
Furthermore, we also noticed that the some of the viral screenshots stated "Babar Masjid", which is an incorrect spelling of Babri Masjid. This leads us to believe that social users were mislead by inaccurate entries for the location of the Babri Masjid on Google Maps.
We reached out to freelance reporter Kaisar Andrabi, who had recently visited Ayodhya. Andrabi told BOOM that "the ruins of the Babri Masjid do not exist anymore, as the (Ram Janmabhoomi) temple has been built right over it".
We also reached out to journalist Ayush Tiwari who reports for Scroll. Tiwari told BOOM that he had visited the ruins of the Babri Masjid in 2019, following Supreme Court's verdict over the dispute.
"I have visited the ruins of the mosque, and I can confirm that the new temple complex has been built right above it," he added.
Nand Kumar, a local resident and the head of the Beopar Mandal Ayodhya, also confirmed the same to BOOM. Kumar added that the position of the idol of Rama, which was placed following the demolition of the mosque in 1992, had been preserved when the temple was constructed.
"As the temple was being made, I can confirm that the idol's exact location was preserved, as it was move up to its current position in the temple. Also, the ruins of the Babri Masjid do not exist anymore - anyone from Ayodhya will confirm," he said.
On hearing of the claims around the temple being built 3 kms away from the ruins of the mosque, he said "they were entirely false".
Furthermore, BOOM used Google Earth Pro to view the site of the Ram Janmabhoomi Temple under construction, at the coordinates 26°47'43.74″N 82°11'38.77″E.
Using the 'historical view' tool, we were able to get a satellite image of the same location from as far back as February 2011. Using this image, we were able to locate a circular trench, resembling a bore well, right in front of the structure where the temple is currently being built.
We compared this with footage of the demolition of the mosque (the bore well can be viewed at the 21.39 mark), which showed a similar circular trench right in front of the mosque while it was being demolished.
This further establishes that the coordinates of the Ram Janmabhoomi Temple under construction, matches that of the ruins of the Babri Masjid, and that the temple was built right above the mosque.
Additional inputs from Sujith A.